In 1970, a small part of history was made when Robert Hutchinson, a student at Tyler Junior College was denied enrollment due to the length of his hair. The situation went as far as the Supreme Court, where the grooming policy was ruled illegal. Hutchinson set an example for students at TJC to stand up for their rights.
According to TJC alumna Carleta Cates, the school was a really home-like place to be a part of and the students and teachers always supported one another.
“At TJC, being family was our tradition, so we looked out for each other,” said Cates. “My English teacher still knows me until this day and it’s been 41 years.”
Cates attended TJC during 1970 when the hair case took place, in that same year, she also made a long-lasting impression on the school.
“I helped create an ensemble group called “Harmony and Understanding,” which still exists at TJC today,” said Cates. “We had plenty of disco in our choreography.”
As an Apache Belle, Cates had some experiences that she will probably never forget.
“I enjoyed two years of kicking up my heels,” said Cates. “We even got to go to Washington D.C. It was a great time, but our line was much longer than it is now.”
Cates said that choir had a lot to offer as well. She received a lot of motivation to do what she loved.
“Our choir director was J.W. Johnson and he was the best director I ever had,” said Cates. “He encouraged us to sing our hearts out. I would contribute all of our success to him.”
During her two years at TJC, Cates was often in the spotlight. She took a lead role in a popular musical.
“I was Annie in “Annie Get Your Gunsaid Cates. “I loved it, it really allowed me to express my talents.”
Aside from all the fun and games, Cates and her classmates were constantly pushed to better themselves academically.
“The teachers were very strict on our grades,” said Cates. “They wanted us to succeed and we did. TJC has birthed a lot of successful people.”
As a member of the Alumni Board at TJC, Cates has experienced, first-hand, the changes that have taken place at the school over the years.
“The campus has grown so much since we were there,” said Cates. “It used to be pretty easy for us to get around, but not anymore.”
Roy Sulser also attended TJC during 1970 and has had experiences at the school that will last a lifetime.
“I was in the band at TJC and Dr. Edwin Fowler was our director,” said Sulser. “He was a mentor for me and a role model. He was always helpful and caring.”
Now Sulser is a member of the Alumni Association, where he now represents the band. Like Cates, Sulser also got to travel with his group.
“One time, I got to go to Los Angeles, California,” said Sulser. “There, we played for the Dallas Cowboys halftime show.”
TJC has given Sulser many oppurtunities, as well as his family. He is impressed by the way the school has grown.
“The school has really changed, it has grown so much and now offers more courses,” said Sulser. “My daughter graduated from TJC and now works as an assistant director for Campus Services.”
According to Sulser, tuition was much cheaper than it is now and on top of that, he had additional help paying it.
“Back then, tuition was about $60 a semester,” said Sulser. “I also had a band scholarship that paid for my spring semester every year.”
Once again TJC has captured the hearts of its students for yet another decade.
“TJC was a very special part of my life,” said Cates. “Those are two years I would never give up for anything.”
“Those were some of the best years of my life,” said Sulser. “If you were to cut my finger, I would bleed black and gold.”